PASSING OFFENSE: C — This grade would have been higher but the Vikings were facing the worst pass defense in the league and therefore aren't about to get the benefit of the doubt. Brad Johnson threw for 257 yards but was sacked four times as the offensive line had perhaps its worst game of the season. The Packers were effective in blitzing their linebackers, and that position group accounted for three sacks, including a key one in the first quarter by Brady Poppinga that resulted in a Johnson fumble in his own territory. That set up Green Bay's first touchdown. Bethel Johnson appeared to give the Vikings a vertical threat, catching second-quarter passes of 35 and 40 yards, but those were his only two receptions. A wide-open Billy McMullen caught a 40-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, but that was purely a result of a breakdown in the Packers coverage.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C — Nothing special here. Chester Taylor had his typical workload, 20 carries for 75 yards, but his longest run went for only 11 yards. Mewelde Moore accounted for 15 yards on three carries to round out the rushing numbers. Taylor was limited in practice last Wednesday because of soreness, and one has to wonder if he is beginning to wear down. Remember, Taylor was a backup in Baltimore for his first four seasons. In nine games, he has had fewer than 20 carries only twice.
PASS DEFENSE: D — Brett Favre picked this unit apart, completing 24 of 42 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns. Donald Driver caught six passes for 191 yards and had an 82-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown. Part of the problem was the fact the Vikings were missing Fred Smoot, whose brother Nov. 5. With Smoot absent, rookie Cedric Griffin started in his place at right cornerback. That forced Ronyell Whitaker into the nickel role. Whitaker started the season as the primary nickel, but by the Nov. 5 game at San Francisco, he had been benched in favor of Griffin. The Packers exploited Whitaker's weaknesses on Driver's long touchdown late in the first half. Driver was lined up in the slot, got inside on Whitaker, caught the pass and was off to the races. It did not help the pass defense that the Vikings did not have a sack for the first time since the season opener at Washington. And this was going against a line that had two rookies at guard and a first-year starter at center.
RUSH DEFENSE: A-minus — Right now there is no better tandem of tackles in the NFL than Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. They proved it again Sunday, making it all but impossible for the Packers and RB Ahman Green to move the ball on the ground. Green was coming off three consecutive 100-yard games but was held to only 55 yards by the Vikings. The Packers averaged 1.8 yards per carry on 26 rushes. No wonder Patriots coach Bill Belichick only attempted 15 runs when New England met the Vikings in late October.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus — Veteran Artose Pinner had a rough day, helping to bring this grade down. Bethel Johnson appeared to give the Vikings a huge spark to open the third quarter, returning the ball 102 yards for what would have been a touchdown. The only problem was Pinner was called for an illegal block above the waist. Instead of the Vikings having a 21-17 lead, it remained 17-14 Packers, and the Vikings started on their own 7-yard line. They moved 11 yards before punting. Late in the fourth quarter when the Vikings pulled within 23-17, Ryan Longwell attempted an onside kick that Minnesota recovered. But Pinner had jumped offside and the ensuing kick went out of bounds. Game over.
COACHING: C-minus — Brad Childress' play-calling continues to be curious at best. On a fourth-and-1 from his own 37 he went for it — in the first quarter. (The Vikings did get the first down.) Yet, he continues to shy away from the vertical game, even against a Green Bay defense that ranked last in the NFL entering the game. If you can't consistently go deep against the 49ers and Packers, the Vikings' past two opponents, odds are you aren't going to throw deep against anybody. Defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin, praised most of the season for what he has done, also had a rough day as the pass defense was shredded by Favre.
Grading The Game: Packers
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